Introduction Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury and hospitalisation for Canadian youth. Graduated Drivers Licensing have been implemented in several Canadian provinces.
Purpose To assess the prevalence of compliance with rules and driving distractions among high school students in three Canadian cities (Halifax, Barrie and Vancouver) representing different geographic, socioeconomic and jurisdictional settings.
Methods Observations were made at schools in the three cities. Schools were identified using school board websites and DMTI, a company that partners with universities to disseminate spatial data. Schools were classified into tertiles based on the income of their neighbourhood census tract, (2006 census). Trained observers attended each site for 30 min at end of the school day in May and June, 2009. Information on: drivers sex, driver seatbelt use, presence of an adult, number of youth passengers and four driver distractions: cell phone use, loud music, eating and smoking were noted.
Results 417 observations were made at 40 schools. Among young drivers, the presence of at least one driver distraction was common (30.2% of cases). However, the type of distractions varied by province. The most common distraction was cell phone use in Vancouver. In Barrie and Halifax, the most common distraction was loud music. Distractions were seen more frequently among male drivers and drivers living in Vancouver. The effect of socioeconomic status varied by city. Seatbelt use was high in all sites.
Conclusion Although many young drivers follow the rules, distractions remain common. Ongoing education and enforcement may improve youth driving behaviours further.
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